Vietnam bestows generous gifts on dissidents throughout year end’s holidays

Posted on January 9, 2013

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According to Vietnam’s government claims, bloggers Dieu Cay and Ta Phong Tan’s appeal court was supposed to open to public.

Yet on December 28, 2012, the date that the trial was supposed to take place, blogger Dieu Cay’s son whose name is Nguyen Tri Dung was detained immediately by security agents when he was leaving home to attend his father’s appeals trial.

Nguyen Tri Dung was then transported to a police station and held there until the trial was over.

In an interview with VOA Vietnamese after being released by police, Nguyen Tri Dung said more than 20 security agents surrounded him the moment he got out of his house. They forcefully took him to a police station in District 3, the place where they held him previously on September 24, 2012 to prevent him from attending his father’s preliminary trial whereas blogger Dieu Cay was sentenced to 12 years in jail and 5 years under house arrest.

Vietnam upholds long blogger jail terms

HANOI — Two prominent Vietnamese dissident bloggers on Friday lost their appeals against long prison sentences for “anti-state propaganda”, a lawyer said, despite international calls for their release.

A court in southern Ho Chi Minh City upheld the convictions of Nguyen Van Hai, alias Dieu Cay, and former policewoman Ta Phong Tan, confirming their respective jail terms of 12 and 10 years.

“They did not listen to us or the defendants,” Hai’s lawyer Ha Huy Son told AFP.

A third blogger Phan Thanh Hai, who had pleaded guilty to the charges at their trial in September, saw his four-year prison term reduced by one year on appeal, Son said.

The convictions relate to political articles the bloggers posted on the banned Vietnamese website “Free Journalists Club” as well as their own blogs, which criticised corruption, injustice and Hanoi’s foreign policy.

Rights campaigners say the bloggers are victims of the communist government’s efforts to muzzle dissent.

Hai’s case has even been raised by US President Barack Obama, who said in May this year “we must not forget (journalists) like blogger Dieu Cay, whose 2008 arrest coincided with a mass crackdown on citizen journalism in Vietnam”.

Worldwide attention grew after Tan’s mother Dang Thi Kim Lieng died in July after setting herself ablaze ahead of her daughter’s trial.

When listening to the verdict, Tan shouted in objection and was immediately escorted out of the court room, according to her lawyer Nguyen Thanh Luong.

The bloggers were convicted of conducting propaganda against the one-party communist state under Article 88 of the criminal code, which rights groups say is one of many “vaguely defined articles” used to prosecute dissidents.

The convictions show “how the government’s control continues to be built on the systematic suppression of core civil and political rights”, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said on Friday.

Such long sentences are “intended to deepen a climate of intimidation and fear”, he added.

The appeal rejection sparked anger on online forums and blogs, which are hugely popular in the heavily-censored country, where the communist party tightly restricts political debate.

“End of the year is end of hope?” one Facebook user posted in response to the verdict.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Vietnam 172 out of 179 countries in its 2011-2012 press freedom index and identified the authoritarian state as an “Enemy of the Internet” because of systematic use of cyber-censorship.

Vietnam bans private media and all newspapers and television channels are state-run.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung ordered authorities to crack down anew on anyone using the Internet to “defame and spread propaganda against the party and state”.

Vietnamese lawyers, bloggers and activists are regularly subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, according to rights groups.

On Thursday another prominent dissident blogger, lawyer Le Quoc Quan, was detained by Vietnamese police while dropping off his daughter at school, according to his brother.

“He was arrested because of his political views,” Le Quoc Quyet told AFP, adding that police had told the family he was to be charged with tax evasion.

Quan, a Catholic in the majority Buddhist nation, was jailed for three months in 2007 for participating in “activities to overthrow the people’s government”, but he was released following protests from the United States.

In August this year Quan was beaten by police in an attack which prompted Human Rights Watch to call for a full investigation.

AFP

Vietnamese Blogger Detained

RFA – Dec. 27, 2012 – Police seize a dissident lawyer and blogger who wrote on ‘forbidden’ topics.

Vietnamese police detained a prominent lawyer and blogger on Thursday as he dropped his daughter off at school, adding to the growing number of dissidents and activists put behind bars in the one-party communist state for writing on politically sensitive topics.

Le Quoc Quan, who blogs on a range of subjects including democracy, civil rights, and religious freedom, was taken into custody in Hanoi, his brother Le Quoc Quyet said in a telephone interview with Agence France-Presse.

Quyet said his brother had been arrested because of his political views, adding that his family had been told Quan would be tried for “tax evasion,” a charge frequently used to jail and silence government critics.

‘Political vendetta’

Human Rights Watch deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson said that Quan’s arrest is the latest step in a “political vendetta” waged by Vietnamese authorities.

“[They] have been pursuing a political vendetta against Le Quoc Quan for several years, and now we see a tax evasion charge coming out of nowhere, just as in the Dieu Cay case previously,” Robertson told RFA.

Outspoken Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Van Hai, also known by his pen name Dieu Cay, was jailed for two and a half years for “tax fraud” and finished his prison term in October 2010, but was immediately rearrested on charges of “conducting propaganda” against the state.

A court in Ho Chi Minh City is expected to hear his appeal of a further 12-year sentence on Friday along with the appeals of two other bloggers sentenced on the same charge, according to AFP.

Jailed, beaten

Quan was jailed for three months in 2007 for “activities to overthrow the people’s government” but was freed following protests from the United States.

In August this year, he was beaten by police in an attack, and in early December Quan told AFP that his family was under “much pressure,” with both his brother and a female cousin held in detention.

Quan also took part in a series of anti-China demonstrations last year over Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Vietnamese authorities have been accused by rights groups of maintaining some of the harshest media controls in Asia.

But Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung this week underlined his government’s determination to suppress online dissent, ordering authorities to crack down on anyone using the Internet to “defame and spread propaganda against the party and state.”

At least 10 bloggers and activists have been convicted this year under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code, a provision rights groups say has been used by Hanoi recently to silence bloggers and activists who use the Internet to promote free expression.

At least half a dozen others have been charged and are awaiting trial.

Chosen for awards

Last week, five Vietnamese bloggers were among 41 writers chosen to receive the 2012 Hellman/Hammett grants, administered by Human Rights Watch, for their commitment to free expression.

Selected for the award were religious-freedoms advocate Nguyen Huu Vinh, rights defender Pham Minh Hoang, freelance journalist Vu Quoc Tu, novelist Huynh Ngoc Tuan, and social commentator Huynh Thuc Vy.

All five have been persecuted for their writings.

“Like other Vietnamese exercising their rights to free expression, many of the country’s growing corps of bloggers are increasingly threatened, assaulted, or even jailed for peacefully expressing their views,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“We are honored to amplify the voices the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party wants to prevent from participating in public discussions of Vietnam’s many social and political problems,” Adams said.

Vietnam Arrests Dissident Blogger

Vietnamese police have detained one of the country’s best-known dissidents and bloggers, raising the stakes in the Communist-run nation’s crackdown on Internet criticism of its one-party rule and potentially worsening the country’s relations with the United States and other important trading partners.

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images Le Quoc Quan at a protest in July.

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Le Quoc Quan at a protest in July.

State-run media Friday reported that lawyer Le Quoc Quan was arrested on his way to drop his daughter off at school in Hanoi on Thursday. In a telephone interview, his wife, Nguyen Thi Thu Hien said he was arrested at about 8 a.m., and police then searched his home. She said police informed her husband that he was being investigated for alleged tax evasion—an allegation she denies.

Mr. Quan writes a popular blog in which he has drawn attention to allegations of human-rights abuses in Vietnam.

“I think my husband was arrested because of his political views as he often calls for democracy and a multiparty political system,” Ms. Hien said.

Neither Vietnamese law-enforcement officials nor Mr. Quan could be reached to comment.

Mr. Quan’s detention comes after the arrest or sentencing of several other bloggers this year as Vietnam’s leaders step up their rigorous policing of the Internet. Officials appear to worry about the organizing power of the Web, and have sporadically blocked social-networking sites such as Facebook  and tried popularize their own, state-controlled alternatives instead.

They have good reason to be concerned. As penetration rates quickly rise —more than a third of Vietnamese are now online, a higher percentage than in Indonesia or Thailand—dissidents increasingly are going online to discuss what they view as the country’s failings in its rush to become a modern, industrialized economy.

In recent months, several prominent blogs have emerged to criticize the lavish spending habits and lifestyles of top Communist Party officials, embarrassing the government and prompting Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to attempt to muzzle online criticism.

So far, Vietnamese authorities have focused on legal threats to quash dissent. Technology analysts say the country lacks the sophisticated Internet monitoring and blocking technology employed by China. Hanoi instead resorts to making an example of dissident bloggers, and is working on new laws that would force Vietnamese to use their real names online—a move that Internet-driven businesses worry will stifle the growth of online commerce.

The crackdown also is straining relations with the United States. Washington recently delayed its annual human-rights dialog with Vietnam, and has repeatedly urged Hanoi to allow more space for political debate and to free political prisoners.

Mr. Quan, a lawyer who runs a legal consultancy in Hanoi, is an especially high-profile target on the U.S.’s radar and has been detained several times before for his pro-democracy views.

In 2007, he was arrested after returning from a fellowship at the U.S.-based National Endowment for Democracy, prompting U.S. Senator John McCain and former Secretary-of-State Madeline Albright to request his release. Amnesty International subsequently declared Mr. Quan, a 41-year-old Roman Catholic, to be a prisoner of conscience, and he was released three months later.

Mr. Quan was briefly arrested again in 2011 for attempting to observe the trial of another dissident, and has since accused authorities of orchestrating an often-violent intimidation campaign against him and his supporters.

In an interview with the Associated Press in September, Mr. Quan said he was under constant surveillance but pledged to continue speaking out for freedom of speech.

The prime minister, Mr. Dung, though, last week issued another warning to dissidents to watch their step, instructing police to prevent activists from organizing political groups which he said could “sabotage” the country’s economic growth.

>> Saigon People’s Court condemns three bloggers for a total of 25 years
>> Vietnamese police arrest well-known dissident lawyer in government crackdown on dissent

WSJ

Vietnam court rejects anti-graft journalist’s appeal

A Vietnamese court Thursday (27/12/2012) upheld a four-year jail sentence for an anti-corruption journalist, rejecting an appeal against his conviction for bribing police during an undercover investigation.

Tuoi Tre's former investigative reporter Hoang Khuong in the morning of Dec. 27, 2012.

Tuoi Tre’s former investigative reporter Hoang Khuong in the morning of Dec. 27, 2012.

Hoang Khuong, 39, a reporter with the official Tuoi Tre newspaper, was convicted in September of paying 15 million dong ($715) to a traffic police officer, through a broker, in return for the release of an impounded motorbike.

His arrest and conviction caused public outcry in communist Vietnam and attracted international concern.

It prompted a debate about the state of local journalism, with many experts warning the charges would deter reporters from tackling corruption.

The court in Ho Chi Minh City threw out Khuong’s plea saying they had “no grounds to consider the defendant’s appeal”, according to defence lawyer Phan Trung Hoai.

“Khuong was rearrested right after the appeal trial. He had been freed on bail for some days” for his mother’s funeral, Hoai told AFP.

The traffic policeman who accepted the bribe was given five years in jail at the pair’s joint trial in southern Ho Chi Minh City. His appeal was also rejected Thursday.

Khuong told the court in September that he would not be behind bars if he had not written the articles.

“I had no other motive than to help efforts to reduce the number of traffic accidents” by exposing police corruption, he said.

Traffic police are one of the top four “most corrupt” sectors in Vietnam, according to a survey published in November by the government inspectorate and the World Bank.

AFP

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